kaigou: this is what I do, darling (2 candy mountain)
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Watching Durarara!!. The post-modern attitude is seriously over the top. I don't mean in the Gundam-style of giving little nods to past tropes and storylines, I mean outright references. Honestly, this series is nodding so damn hard I'm surprised its head doesn't fall off. Well, what hasn't already fallen off, given it's about a cousin to the headless horseman.

Lots of pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

Going to try to avoid spoilers, so I won't give a full context for all of these, and some of them have subtitles only where the dialogue is related to the nod for that segment. But first, I said jewel-tones, and I meant it. I don't know what technology they're using for the backgrounds, but man, they're gorgeous. A lot of them feel like a sort of impressionistic photography.

At the train station in what I think is Ikebukuro, in the opening minutes of the very first episode:



...the jewel-tones of the lit-up signage is twice as striking compared to the fact that all NPCs in the series are in shades of gray.



...in a method reminiscent of the final arc of Mo No No Ke, which also used this technique:



The detail in the backgrounds are just amazing, compared to the lower-quality I'm used to. Things like gradations in the brick wall, and the menu-display.



Daylight shots tend to have a brilliance to them, and the frustration here is that reducing these in size (so they're not overwhelming in upload) does seem to have a corresponding effect in reducing the luminosity. Bummer.



But even with any reduced luminosity in this format, it's still impossible to miss the rich layers of nearly every shot.



Certain shots seem to be so complete in the background that I get the impression there really must be such a place, or one so damn close that one of the team used a photograph to recreate it with only a few modifications.



...or this place. No chunky signs or barely-occupied streets for this series, no sirree.



Another hallmark is the amount of translucence, or at least a strong sense of it. Light and glass are repeating visual elements -- be this the gleam of a building's glass, or the random pattern of florescent ceiling lights through green-tinted sheets, as seen from the street below.



It's the night-lit shots, though, that really glow.



...especially with the ubiquitous vending machines, though the details blow away nearly any other animated show I've seen in a while.



...and sometimes, the only bright spots are those machines.



The few times an everyday object doesn't get total realism, the art makes up for it by providing so many other details normally left blank or lettered in a chunky grade-school fashion. Not this series. (In the shot above, reducing the image means you can't see it, but there's actually lettering in the windows of the businesses behind the character.)



And even the distant background gets a wealth of colors to imply the sign, rather than the usual crude coloring that barely hints at something. The visual hints in this series aren't implied, just impressionistic, but still far more complex than what I'm used to seeing.



Oh. I should probably also note that I think this might be one of the first times I've ever seen this as a prominent part of a series' closing credits.



Not to be flippant about it, but it does seem to me that the only time you see that statement is when there just might be a possibility that someone would say there's a resemblance to people living or dead. Which, given the number of nods, just might be so -- or at least, is enough of an open question that Durarara!!'s creators erred on the side of saying no resemblance, given that riffing off existing characters means you can't say for certain whether those characters are riffing off persons living or dead. A peculiar instance of a useful CYA.

Now that you have a sense of the visual context, let's get with the nodding.



Shizuo Heiwajima is voiced by Daisuke Ono, who also voices Sebastian Michaelis for Kuroshitsuji -- "Black Butler" (or "Demon Butler"), in which Sebastian is the titular butler. In Durarara!!, Shizuo is outrageously strong and has a serious anger management problem, so his backstory consists of a series of short-term jobs that he kept losing either directly for fighting, or because fighting would ruin his uniform and thus he's lose his job for having a wrecked uniform. Eventually his little brother buys Shizuo a lifetime's supply of bartender uniforms, in hopes that this would be one less reason for him to lose his bartending job.

Evidence A: Shizuo, in bartending uniform and on the edge of being severely pissed-off. All pretty modus operandi, for him.



Here we have Shizuo's little brother (the actor) delivering those uniforms, and if anyone has any clue what the X and O chart behind Kasuka might be, I'd love to know. It's too impressionistic in style to get any details, but I'm thinking some kind of bookie chart, like who's won/lost against who, or something.



Thus, when Shizuo is introduced, he's referred to as "that guy who looks like a bartender" -- slacks, buttoned-up vest, nice shirt. Then we get to Shizuo's episode, and discover he's no longer a bartender; he just wears the bartender uniform because he's, well, got a lifetime's supply. Despite this, the chat room occupied by a number of the Ikebukuro locals all refer to him as a bartender.



When we get Shizuo's focal episode, it covers his history up to the present day, and his work as a sort of body-guard for a school sempai, who works as a loan-collector for the yakuza. Apparently it doesn't always go so well, at least when the borrowers in question don't get out enough to know that Shizuo is a fearsome thing.



Thus, not knowing Shizuo by face or name or even reputation, one would expect more of the ongoing joke about Shizuo the bartender who doesn't work at a bar. Except not.



Note: Shizuo not so keen on being called a butler.

Note: Actually, Shizuo take it kinda personal.



Shizuo ends up beating the crap out of the kids and utterly destroying the entire gaming hang-out. For a voice actor who is all smoothness and imperturbable calm as Sebastian, it's almost startling how he speaks in a constant growl, all brimstone and fury as Shizuo -- and man, does he have a temper.

What seems to be the most important detail about Shizuo, or at least what he finds one of the most important to convey, is that his little brother is a successful actor. (I do think the contrast in intentional, that Shizuo is nothing but a bundle of angry emotions, while his little brother is positively emotionless, and that it's Kasuka who's the 'actor' despite a complete lack of emoting.)

So, naturally, this means seeing Kasuka's face. The billboards have been glimpsed in previous episodes, but only now are they given any prominence. There are billboards as Shizuo walks around the city at night, contemplating his past and his vendetta with the character Shizuo simply calls "that damn flea"...



And another billboard that I'm almost positive has to be yet another inside joke.



There have been nods throughout almost every episode so far, but many of them I'd discounted or just not paused long enough to pay attention to. Getting to episode 7, Shizuo's episode, makes the nods almost in-your-face -- and it's in episode 11 that the elbowing from the in-jokes almost gains enough strength to almost become sucker-punches instead.

But first, since I'm talking about Shizuo, we'll start with him, and this image:



...and continue this in the next post, again with too many images.
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kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
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to remember

"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

October 2016

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